Peter Downsborough

Over the weekend, Bradford City fans were sad to hear the news that former Bantams goalkeeper Peter Downsborough has passed away.

The Halifax-born stopper made 225 appearances for Bradford City over a four-year period between 1974-1978. He had shot to national fame five years earlier, playing a starring role in Swindon Town’s shock League Cup Final victory over the mighty Arsenal at Wembley. Downsborough kept goal for Swindon 274 times. And it is fitting that Saturday will see City face the Robins, allowing both sets of supporters to pay tribute to a true legend.

Downsborough’s legacy at Valley Parade has twice been recognised in recent years. Firstly, in February 2017, our reader poll to find the greatest Bradford City goalkeepers in modern history saw Downsborough finish a very respectable fourth place. And only this summer, our poll of the 100 Most Popular Bradford City Players Of All Time saw Downsborough rank 31st. Tellingly, he was the highest-ranked goalkeeper – making Downsborough the most popular keeper in the club’s history.

As part of the 2017 goalkeeper poll, WOAP reader John Dunn provided an excellent account of Downsborough’s City career, and we make no apologises for republishing it here.

“As a youth he was a superb all round sportsman, shining at rugby union, cricket, boxing, football and swimming (he won junior honours in swimming and boxing).  A centre forward for Halifax Boys, he was asked to play in goal when the ‘keeper was injured during a match.  As fate would have it a Halifax Town scout was watching and was so impressed that he was signed almost on the spot (just think, had substitutes been allowed in those days this guy would never have had the career he ultimately enjoyed and City wouldn’t have been promoted in 1977!)

“After 5 years at ‘fax he was transferred to Swindon Town where he enjoyed the best years of his career, culminating in the defeat of Arsenal in the 1969 League Cup Final during which as I recall, it was himself versus the Arsenal strikers for most of the match until Don Rogers took a hand in the proceedings during extra time.

“Signing for City in 1974 (I could hardly believe it! City signing such a great ‘keeper with a top pedigree) he continued in the same vein, becoming a specialist at saving penalties (including a remarkable sequence of 4 consecutive saves), standing firm away against Norwich in a 1976 FA Cup match where he faced an onslaught from the Ted McDougall/Martin Peters led home side, before Billy ‘Goalden Boots’ McGinley scored 3 minutes before the end to secure a 2-1 victory for the Bantams.

“It took a controversial free kick from Southampton’s Jim McCalliog (later outlawed) in the quarter final for the eventual cup winners to put one past Downsborough, and even his final match for City had a touch of ‘Roy Of The Rovers’ about it – a 6-0 defeat of Crew Alex on the 28 April 1979, the very same team against whom he had made his debut for City in 1973.

“With a City career of 225 games played between December 1973 and April 1979 including 70 clean sheets, my nomination for ‘greatest ever goalkeeper’ just has to be the remarkable Peter Downsborough – local boy done good!”

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11 replies

  1. I second all that and how ironic we play Swindon on Saturday. !

  2. Amazing coincidence that we play Swindon on Saturday and an.opportunity for our fans to show their true nature in a wonderful tribute to Peter. With Swindon fans there in their numbers it will be a wonderful show of apprreciation for both sets of fans.

  3. Thank you for re-posting this, Jason.
    He really was that good you know. A poll of any sort naturally favours people/songs/TV programmes, etc. from the recent past. For someone who played his last match for City in 1979 and who had his entire career at the Club during a period when crowds were very poor (23.04.1975 v Northampton 1,697; 03.05.1976 v Newport 1,628, just 379 higher than the lowest ever crowd for a League match at VP) to finish 4th in your ‘keeper poll just shows what an incredible impact he had. Factor this in and he would be a country mile ahead of Clarke, Schwarzer and Walsh at the top of your poll.

    • A tremendous goal keeper throughout his career and loved by all the fans of the clubs he represented but a “country mile” ahead of Mark Schwarzer? I think hyperbole has got the better of you there!

      • Not easy to make a meaningful comparison across the generations but MS played only 15 games for the Bantams. PD was a stand out in a very ordinary team over a long period. The fact that he is still remembered 40 years later is testament to his impact. Yes MS was objectively a better keeper but that alone does not afford you that indefinable “legend” status!

  4. My first BCFC keeper in the 76-77 season, saw him save a few penalties and even at the young age of 12 even I recognised his ability to stop a shot. From my position in the Bradford End I saw him start to dive to the left and changed mid flight to the right and catch the ball with one hand… Jaw dropping stuff. Deserves his standing in the best of polls.

  5. Downsborough along with Ces was surely good enough to have played higher than third tier. Stunning shot stopper and easily my top City keeper.

  6. I remember many, many a brilliant game from Peter, a great man, a sad day but what better way to remember him on Saturday, good on you Peter RIP

  7. I saw many, many a great game by Peter, it is sad but fitting that Saturdays game is against Swindon, and we can all remember him, RIP Peter and Thanks.

  8. One of my favourite all time City players, I recall him letting out his secret to the penalty saves. He said he’d stand bang centre between both sticks on the goal line. then he’d take one small step to his un-favoured side.
    The penalty taker is usually a bit tense, therefore see’s the bigger part of the goal to aim for. Thus Peter tempted them to go for the area he was to dive to. I’ve tried his method many times, It’s surprising how often it works

  9. i played a 100 games or more with peter when we lived on backholld drive siddal.
    in the 1950s we played at exley both soccer and rugby leuge.
    i always knew he would be a great goalkeeper.
    his brother ronnie was a good player too.
    rip old friend. doug cromie

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